The Eggshell Student.

August 13, 2015

The Atlantic recently ran a thoughtful, very well-written piece by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt, in which they describe and trace the causes of a disease epidemic in American higher education: the development of thin-skinned students who expect coddling and protection from any perceived offense, no matter how slight (or imaginary) and who have become expert in escalating situations from misunderstanding to hate crime. The condition is unfortunately well-known to anybody graduating college in the last few decades: everybody seems eager to be offended by anything, and instead of honest self-analysis or even meaningful conversation they call for politically correct retribution, sometimes with frighteningly real consequences. Take the authors’ example:

“[I]n 2013, a student group at UCLA staged a sit-in during a class taught by Val Rust, an education professor… In the course of correcting his students’ grammar and spelling, Rust had noted that a student had wrongly capitalized the first letter of the word indigenous. Lowercasing the capital I was an insult to the student and her ideology, the group claimed.”

Careers have been ruined with this kind of nonsense.

The authors note the danger of accepting claims of offense at face value, absent any ability to objectively quantify (or even confirm the existence of) offense. “I’m offended” has become the trump card in any campus debate, immediately foreclosing debate (for fear of giving further offense) and requiring appeasement to the offended party – regardless of the intent behind (or even existence of) the offending act. Further, they point out nothing good can come of coddling hypersensitive, entitled students – they learn that brittle feelings are precious snowflakes to which sacrifice will be made by administrators fearful of litigation, and are thus unprepared upon graduation for anything resembling the real world or an adult relationship of any kind.

Were it not for the fact the rest of us have to put up with these people, that might be poetic justice. But as things stand, these student crusaders against offense are as dangerous as child monarchs – they have immense power and use it unreasonably upon the slightest provocation, recreating scenes better left in The Crucible. To their credit, Jerry Seinfeld and Chris Rock have both stopped performing on college campuses, citing the inability of students to take a joke.


Davos Divas Denounce Disparity

January 27, 2011

The World Economic Forum meets regularly in Davos, Switzerland to do whatever it is the Forum does. Whatever that is, there will be more women doing it this year than in years previous: the Forum’s Women Leaders & Gender Parity program has made a priority of increasing the participation of women in the event, this year mandating (under the auspices of unknown authority) that 50% of representatives from any particular organization be female.

(Despite its collective brain power, the program may not have realized that the only thing quotas ensure is that organizations will produce token representation when necessary for the sake of compliance, while avoiding any appreciable, system-wide change… or that quota systems encourage the promotion of those conforming to criteria over those worth promoting.)

The same thing is underway at Dartmouth College, where a lady named Evelynn Ellis has been named vice president of institutional diversity & equity. The fact that such a position exists and is salaried handsomely is worrisome enough; what is more so, especially considered in conjunction with affairs in Davos, is that such intelligent people have missed the obvious solution to problems of gender parity:

Hire people, promote them, and reward them based on their ability and achievement. Just as hiring men over women for the sake of anachronistic chauvinism is wrong and leads to gross inequity, so too does hiring women over men for the sake of politically-correct tokenism. Hire the people who deserve hiring, promote those who deserve promotion, and reward those deserving of reward… and ignore their race, gender, ethnicity, orientation, and the rest of it. The result will be an organization full of able, deserving people held back by neither prejudice nor politics.